breastfeeding over Christmas

This issue we ask Clare Byam-Cook what mums should do if they’re breastfeeding over Christmas

Breastfeeding mothers will often worry whether it’s OK to drink alcohol, whether their baby will become colicky if they eat the wrong foods, and how they can possibly find time to relax when there is so much to do! To avoid feeling overwhelmed, the answer is to prepare well in advance.

Check baby is happy to feed from a bottle 

Christmas is a good time to get other family members to help you with some of the feeds, preferably using your expressed milk. If your baby is used to having the occasional bottle, she will be happy to switch between bottle and breast without any problems. But if she has been exclusively breastfed since birth, you might find that she gets upset or fussy when you first introduce a bottle, so don’t leave it until the last minute to see how she reacts.

Try offering her a bottle at some feeds instead of the breast and experiment to see which bottle she prefers – what suits one baby does not necessarily suit another.

Store some breast milk in the freezer

It’s a good idea to start freezing some spare milk in the weeks leading up to Christmas to ensure you have some in reserve if you get overtired and your supply temporarily goes down. It might also come in handy if you over-indulge on alcohol and need to ‘pump and dump’ afterwards! The best time to express is immediately after a feed so that you do not affect the amount available for the next feed.

Think before you drink 

Even medical professionals cannot agree on how much alcohol is safe to consume when pregnant or breastfeeding, which makes it rather difficult for anyone else to make an informed decision. Some health professionals say that it is not safe for a breastfeeding mother to drink any alcohol at all until her baby is three months old, while others take a more relaxed view. It is my opinion that your baby is unlikely to come to any harm if you occasionally drink 1-2 units of alcohol (the equivalent of a glass of wine) immediately after a breastfeed so that your body has time to eliminate most of it before the next feed. You can have fun, but do think before you drink!

Festive food tips

• Once your baby is born, it’s safe to eat all the foods that you avoided during pregnancy, and most babies are not adversely affected by everyday foods. It is therefore unlikely that your baby will react badly to anything you eat, but if you think she is becoming windy or colicky three to six hours after you have eaten a certain food, you might want to consider temporarily excluding it from your diet.

• Some foods can change the taste of your breast milk, so again, assess from your baby’s reaction what she does and doesn’t enjoy.

• Remember that many Christmas treats contain alcohol, so this needs to be taken into account when you are looking at your daily alcohol intake.

• Chocolate contains caffeine so consuming it in large amounts might make your baby less placid and more wakeful than usual.

• Nuts, including peanut butter, are safe to eat and won’t put your baby at greater risk of a nut allergy. In fact, they can make a great energy-boosting snack!

And if you buy only one thing… Pick up a copy of Clare’s book – Top Tips for Breastfeeding – for failsafe ways to make breastfeeding simple, and help overcome the problems that many new mothers face.

Want more? The most common questions about breastfeeding

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